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State of the City 2020

State of New Yorkers and Neighborhoods

COVID-19 impacted nearly every aspect of life in New York City in 2020, and COVID infection and death rates were inequitably distributed by both neighborhoods and affected individuals. In the first quarter after the onset of the pandemic, unemployment spiked from around 3 percent to 18 percent. The number of adults in families and children who lived in shelter decreased, but the number of single men who lived in shelter increased rapidly after the onset of the pandemic. Subway ridership dropped over 90 percent in March and remained well below 2019 ridership numbers for the rest of 2020. 

Like the section on the city’s housing stock, in this section we mostly use administrative data to focus on topics more directly related to COVID-19. All of the topics, except for income distribution, use data through all of 2020. 

During 2020, COVID-19 cases and deaths were inequitably distributed geographically and by race. Black and Hispanic New Yorkers experienced a higher COVID case and death rate.

Though COVID-19 was present in every neighborhood in New York City, areas outside of Manhattan and northwest Brooklyn had particularly high case rates. Death rates due to COVID did not always correlate with case rates. For example, while all Staten Island ZIP codes were in the top quintile of case rates, most of them actually had lower relative death rates than the rest of the city. Pockets of Queens, particularly East Elmhurst and Corona, had the earliest spikes in cases and ended the year with some of the highest case and death rates in the city. Deaths were more prevalent outside Manhattan. The East New York neighborhood experienced the highest death rate across the city. 

In terms of race/ethnicity, Black and Hispanic New Yorkers had higher case and death rates than Asian and white New Yorkers. Hispanic New Yorkers had the highest case rate, at 37.2 infected per 1,000, compared to 31.5 Black New Yorkers, 28.8 white New Yorkers, and 20.2 Asian New Yorkers. Black New Yorkers had the highest death rate at 3.1 deaths per 1,000 people, compared to 2.6 for Hispanic New Yorkers, 2.0 for white New Yorkers, and 1.3 for Asian New Yorkers.

Map of confirmed COVID-19 cases per 1,000 residents in 2020 by zip code in New York City.
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Map of confirmed COVID-19 deaths per 1,000 residents in 2020 by zip code in New York City.
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Bar graphs showing COVID-19 case and death rates by race (Asian, Black, Hispanic, and White) in New York City in 2020.
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Unemployment spiked to over 18 percent in the second quarter of 2020.

Data from the Department of Labor show that 2020 began with a continued and gradual decline in unemployment, before the rate spiked to 18 percent in the second quarter. As the economy slowly re-opened, the unemployment rate declined. 2020 ended with an unemployment rate of 12 percent. According to ACS data, which is only available through the end of 2019, 3.3 percent of New Yorkers aged 16 or older were unemployed during 2019, a decrease of 1.4 percentage points from 2015, and 3.7 percentage points from 2010. 

Line graph showing the quarterly unemployment rate in New York City from 2017 to 2020.
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Bar graphs showing share of population aged 16 or older by employment status in New York City in 2010, 2015, and 2019.
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Between 2000 and 2019, a higher share of renter and owner households had annual household incomes greater than $100,000.

The share of all households with earnings between $100,000 and $250,000 increased by 4.6 percentage points between 2000 and 2019. The share of households with earnings greater than $250,000 increased by 3.5 percentage points. Both renter and owner households had similar income distribution shifts over the same period, but the most notable changes were the 6.0 percentage point increase in the share of owner households with earnings greater than $250,000, and the 5.9 percentage point increase in the share of renter households with earnings greater than $100,00 and $250,000. The share of renter households on the other end of the income spectrum—those who earned less than $20,000—declined by 2.7 percentage points between 2000 and 2019. 

Bar graphs comparing the Household Income Distribution in New York City in 2000 and 2019, for all households, owner households, and renter households.
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During 2020, the overall number of people who lived in homeless shelters decreased, however the population of single adults who lived in homeless shelters reached its highest number since data became available in 1990.

The total homeless shelter population declined by about 5 percent between 2019 and 2020, from 62,321 to 59,202. This overall decline was driven by a decrease in the number of families who lived in homeless shelters. The number of single adults actually increased by almost 7 percent, to the largest population recorded since these data were made available in 1990. Month-by-month, the number of single adult women who lived in shelters remained relatively stable throughout 2020 and did not differ from the population numbers of 2019. At the beginning of 2020, the number of single adult men who lived in homeless shelters was only slightly more than in January of 2019. However, in around April of 2020, the number of single adult men steadily increased month after month through the end of 2020 to a population 12 percent larger than the one in December 2019. It is important to note that data from the New York City Department of Homeless Services only account for individuals living in homeless shelters, not the total number of individuals experiencing homelessness.

Bar graphs showing average monthly shelter population by family status (persons not in families and persons in families) in New York City from 1990 to 2020.
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Line graphs comparing the weekly shelter population by family status in New York City in 2019 and 2020 for children, adults in families, single adult women, and single adult men.
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Average weekday subway ridership in 2020 dropped significantly following the onset of the pandemic and remained well below the 2019 average for the rest of the year.

The average weekday subway ridership at the beginning of 2020 was nearly identical to the average of 2019. However, after the onset of the pandemic and economic shutdown in March, ridership fell more than 90 percent to a low of about 430,000 entries in April. Ridership remained well below 2019 numbers for the rest of the year, but climbed slightly to about 65 percent of the 2019 average by December. Ridership on the subway, Long Island Railroad, and Metro North declined the most relative to 2019 and suffered the slowest recoveries. Bridges and tunnels (i.e., personal vehicles) had the smallest decline and the fastest recovery and ended the year at over 75 percent of 2019 numbers. City bus ridership had initially recovered at the second highest rate of all transportation modes, but then declined when the MTA resumed collection of bus fares in August. 

Line graph comparing the average weekday subway ridership in New York City in 2019 and 2020.
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Line graph comparing the average daily change in 2020 ridership compared to the equivalent day in 2019 by modes of transportation (subway, LIRR, Metro North, bus, bridges and tunnels, and Access-A-Ride) within New York City.
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